| Japanese (日本語)

Vol.22 May 2009


The Capt. Whitfield - Manjiro Friendship Memorial House Opens in Massachusetts

The Friendship Memorial House

The Friendship Memorial House

In Fairhaven, Massachusetts, a memorial museum was opened and dedicated to John Manjiro, who was the first Japanese person to live on the mainland of America and who later became an important advisor to the Tokugawa Shogunate during the opening of Japan. The house, which was converted into a museum, belonged to Captain William Whitfield, and is where Manjiro spent his first night in the U.S. more than 160 years ago. On May 7, an opening ceremony was held with more than 200 people in attendance, both American and Japanese, including Ambassador Nishimiya from New York. The 5th and 6th generation of the Nakahama and Whitfield families also attended the ceremony. During the ceremony, Mr. Tsuji, Consul General of Japan in Boston expressed his appreciation to Dr. Hinohara and other members of the Friendship Memorial House Restoration Committee for their enormous contribution toward the creation of Memorial House. He further stated, “The friendship between Manjiro and Capt. Whitfield was an important aspect of the opening up of Japan in the early days of its modernization.”

John Manjiro

John Manjiro

Manjiro Nakahama was born in 1827 in a fishing village now called Tosashimizu, in Kochi prefecture. He became a fisherman, and in 1841, when he was 14 years old, Manjiro and four companions were caught in a storm at sea and shipwrecked on the uninhabited island of Tori Shima in the Pacific. Luckily, they were rescued by William H. Whitfield, captain of the whaleship John Howland. Manjiro’s four shipmates were set ashore in Honolulu, but the 14 year old boy wanted to stay on the ship. So, Captain Whitfield brought him back to the US. Captain Whitfield treated Manjiro, who was later referred to as “John Manjiro”, like his own son. He enrolled Manjiro in the Oxford School in Fairhaven MA, where he studied English, mathematics and navigation.

Captain Whitfield

Captain Whitfield

Japan’s isolationist policy meant that leaving the country was a serious offense – yet after 10 years, Manjiro was determined to return home to pass on the knowledge and goodwill he had received in America. Eventually, he was allowed to return to Japan in October 1852. Soon after his return, Commodore Perry arrived in Japan calling for an end to isolationism, and Manjiro played a crucial role in interpreting and negotiating between Perry and the Shogunate. With Manjiro’s involvement and advice, the Shogunate took the first steps towards opening the country after 200 years of isolation. His contribution proved to be an important factor in the origin of the U.S. – Japan relationship.

Dr. Hinohara, 97, is a physician still in active practice and chairman of the board of directors at the St Luke’s International Hospital in Tokyo. He leads a group of Japanese supporters moved by the story of John Manjiro and Captain Whitfield. Dr. Hinohara and other well-wishers worked hard to collect donations in order to acquire and restore the Captain’s house, which was in ruins and on sale. They successfully raised enough funds to cover the cost of buying and renovating the house. On May 7, 2009, 166 years after John Manjiro spent his first night in Fairhaven, they handed over the restored house to the town of Fairhaven. In a speech at the ceremony, Dr. Hinohara said that he hopes that the memorial house will serve as a reminder of John Manjiro and Capt. Whitfield and will become a symbol of the friendship between Japan and the U.S.

In Fairhaven, you can enjoy a trip along the “John Manjiro Trail”. Along the route, there are places related to Manjiro’s life such as the Old Oxford School, the Millicent Library and the Riverside Cemetery.

For further information on the town of Fairhaven, please visit: http://fairhaven-ma.gov/ and on the Whitfield-Manjiro Friendship society, please visit : http://manjiro1.tripod.com/.

Dr. Shigeaki Hinohara

The Old Oxford School

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Japan’s Domestic and International Efforts to Overcome the Economic Crisis

A Stimulus Package of Unparalleled Scale

The Japanese government has laid out a stimulus package of an unprecedented scale in an attempt to face down ever-grimmer prospects of a domestic economic downturn. In what is called an “economic crisis measure” announced on April 10, a total of 15.4 trillion yen, equal to nearly 3% of the nation’s GDP, is appropriated in fiscal spending to generate immediate demand and boost longer-term growth potential.

Fiscal spending of this size is explained to translate into 56.8 trillion yen in economic effect and work to boost GDP growth by two percentage points, creating 400,000-500,000 new jobs in fiscal 2009.

Prime Minister Aso

Prime Minister Taro Aso

Photo by Mr. Kaku Kurita

Demand and job-creating programs to be facilitated by the package center on: provision of subsidies for the purchase of environment-friendly and energy-saving automobiles and household electric appliances; an inheritance tax break on house purchases; job training and broadening of unemployment benefit coverage; expansion of child-raising support; credit assistance to smaller firms suffering from the credit crunch; and stock market support through government buying of shares.

In a press conference held at the National Press Club the day before the announcement, Prime Minister Aso delivered a speech to reveal Japan’s new growth strategy, which centers on realization of a low-carbon society; a society of longevity with security and health; and creation of soft power and tourism. He also stated that Japan would work to help Asian economies double by 2020.

Japan’s Commitment to the IMF: G-20 Meeting

©Kyodo News

On the international arena, at the second G-20 financial summit in early April, Japan, together with China, took a distinctly positive stance to side with the Anglo-American call for globally coordinated stimulus policies to pull the world out of the recession. Prime Minister Aso played a major role in proposing to bolster the lending capacity of the International Monetary Fund to help developing and emerging countries suffering from the global credit crunch.

The G-20 declaration ended up with a call for $5 trillion in stimulus spending for the world as a whole through 2010, instead of committing each country to a specific size of spending. While this represented a sum total of what countries have committed so far, the United States accounts for $2 trillion of it and Japan $0.6 trillion.

At the summit, Japan took an initiative to bolster the IMF facility, offering $100 billion on its own for the purpose. A total of $1,100 billion is to be committed through the IMF and other international organizations to help emerging and developing economies under financial distress.

With regard to changes to be made to the IMF, Japan, the second largest holder of U.S. treasury debt after China, made its intention clear to defend the U.S. dollar as the key currency, in line with its overall policy to stand by the U.S. in the fiscal and monetary policy initiatives.

Japan’s Assistance to Asia

In relation to Asia, Finance and Economic Minister Kaoru Yosano made it clear at the Governor’s Seminar of the 42nd Annual Meeting of the ADB on May 3, that it would also be important to continue to strengthen regional cooperation frameworks for financial stability, such as the Chiang Mai Initiative (CMI) and the Asian Bond Markets Initiative (ABMI), thereby reducing the necessity for individual countries to protect themselves by building up foreign reserves and other defensive measures.

Finance and Economic Minister Kaoru Yosano

Finance and Economic Minister Kaoru Yosano

Mr. Yosano said, “As stability in Asian market is critically important for the region, Japan will continue its own bilateral assistance to Asian countries. We will offer swap arrangements to provide Yen in case of financial crises separate from the Multilateralised Chiang Mai Initiative (CMIM). The total amount of such Yen swap arrangements will be up to 60 billion USD equivalent. Also, in order to maintain capital flows to Asian developing countries that are temporarily unable to raise funds through international bond issuance due to disruptions at the markets, we have decided to provide guarantees of up to 500 billion yen, by JBIC (Japan Bank for International Cooperation) on yen denominated bonds, or Samurai bonds, issued in Japanese markets by such developing countries”.

Mr. Yosano expects that, by means of these measures, the current crisis will help trigger a transformation of the economic structure of Asian developing countries into a more balanced one that will enable them to restart their robust growth.

Furthermore, on May 21, Prime Minister Taro Aso gave a speech titled, “Overcoming the Economic Crisis to Rekindle a Rapidly Developing Asia” and laid out broad policies concerning Asia. He stressed the necessity of implementing policies to increase “Asia’s growth potential from a medium- to long-term perspective and to elicit that latent potential”. In concrete terms, Japan has prepared for this purpose: (a) the equivalent of up to 20 billion US dollars in ODA, (b) the equivalent of 20 billion dollars for a new line of trade insurance for infrastructure development, (c) the equivalent of 5 billion dollars over two years for the Initiative “Leading Investment to Future Environment” of the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), and (d) the equivalent of 22 billion dollars over two years in additional support for trade finance in order to underpin trade credit, and so on. Prime Minister Aso said that Japan will mobilize all possible policy measures to support the efforts being made by Asian countries.

This article was partly extracted from Japan Brief No. 0917 and No. 0920. Japan Brief is an original production of the Foreign Press Center, Japan, and does not represent the views of the Government of Japan or of any other body.

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A Ride as Smooth as Tofu – Japanese Bullet Train

By Charles Danziger

©Japan Convention Services, Inc.,

When I heard last February about Japanese Prime Minister Aso’s discussions with President Obama regarding the possibility of bringing Japanese high speed rail technology to the United States, and then President’s Obama’s statement in April that high-speed rail was now a real transportation priority in the U.S., I was reminded of my own first, unforgettable experience on the Japanese bullet train (the “Shinkansen.”)

It was September of 1987, I had just landed in Tokyo, and I was heading to the city of Nagoya (163 miles away) for my first day of language class at a Japanese university. A kindly airport official suggested that I ride the bullet to Nagoya.

Still bleary-eyed with jet-lag, I took a bus to Tokyo Station, bought an economy class train ticket for the bullet train, and waited on the platform. I was surprised that the departure time was posted as 6:13 pm (not a round number). As the gleaming train silently glided into the station, it resembled an elegant white snake with a proud, high forehead and tapered nose.

Look -- inside the train is nice and cozy

©Charles Danziger 2009

I boarded the train and marveled at the sleek interior design. Then I settled into my plush seat, hit the recline button, and closed my eyes.

A few minutes later, I still had not heard a peep from the engines or felt any vibrations. “Why are were still standing in the station?” I wondered.

I opened my eyes and was amazed to see that Tokyo, and the Japanese countryside, were already whizzing by us at an incredible speed. We had left the station exactly at 6:13, but I simply hadn’t noticed this, since the ride was as smooth as tofu.

Shortly thereafter, the door to my compartment door slid open, and a smartly dressed attendant appeared. She bowed to the riders, said in Japanese “I am sorry to disturb you,” and produced a trolley piled high with what looked like beautifully wrapped Christmas presents. They turned out to be delicious boxed meals.

I bought some fresh sushi and a bottle of green tea, and the lady sitting next to me was nice enough to offer me some grapes for dessert. We shared the perfect picnic.


©Charles Danziger 2009

My seatmate proudly described some of the virtues of the bullet: how it is extraordinarily safe (thanks in part to anti-earthquake technology), environmentally friendly, energy efficient, reliable (running every 3.5 minutes at peak hours), and, of course, very, very fast. She explained how the bullet – established in 1964 just in time for the Tokyo Olympics -- was the world’s first high-speed train and had played a key role in Japan’s economic miracle by linking major cities.

As I experienced the Zen-like feeling of riding the bullet, I reflected on the fact that the Japanese have not only raised train-travel to an art. They have made it literally and figuratively a breeze.

About two hours later, we pulled into Nagoya and it was time to get off.

“Can’t I stay on board a bit longer?” I thought to myself. “It’s so comfortable here…”

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culture connection

Tracing the Legacy of Military Commander Date Masamune

Photo Courtesy of Sendai City

Date Masamune (pronounced “da-té”) (1567-1636) was a samurai feudal lord who laid the groundwork for the city of Sendai and its surrounding areas in Tohoku, northern Japan. Even today, Masamune is one of the most popular warriors in Japan; many books are written and his story is repeatedly dramatized for TV. Let’s take a look at the life of this iconic figure called dokuganryu (“one-eyed dragon”) for his missing eye.

In the 16th century, Japan was in chaos as feudal lords battled each other for supremacy. Date Masamune was born in 1567 as the eldest son of Date Terumune, a daimyo, or feudal lord. As a child Masamune lost sight in his right eye because of smallpox – today, he is often nicknamed as the “one-eyed dragon” and depicted with a bandage. He succeeded his father at the age of 18 and assumed control of the Tohoku area at 24. As his power base grew, even Toyotomi Hideyoshi, one of the most powerful leaders in the central government, who was aiming to unify the nation under his control, saw him as a threat to his power.

By the beginning of the 17th century, however, the nation became stable under Tokugawa Ieyasu and the Tokugawa shogunate in Edo (now Tokyo) was founded. Masamune served as a deputy “Shogun” in the central government while governing his own domain in the north. He established his castle in Sendai, Miyagi prefecture, in the Momoyama style, which encompassed the most sophisticated culture and arts in Japan of the time. Masamune dedicated himself to the development of industry and the prosperity of his domain; he vigorously promoted the reclamation of land, shipbuilding, and the development of salt making techniques. He also transformed the Oosaki Plain into a fertile rice field through improvements of the Kitakami River.

Portrait of Date Masamune, Sendai City Museum

Today, some people say that Masamune could have conquered the whole country if he had been born 20 years earlier. Ms. Yoshiko Satoh, policy planner for Miyagi prefectural government and a big fan of Masamune herself, says that that was certainly a possibility, but we will never know. As Masamune himself revealed, “I wanted to conquer the nation because of my ambition, or to test my strength. Ieyasu wanted to do so because he wished for peace and prosperity for the people”. Probably aware of Ieyasu’s talent as a leader, after Ieyasu came to power, Masamune dedicated himself to supporting the shogun while working for the development of his own domain in the north-eastern region.

Masamune is also known for sending a mission to Europe; the mission was led by General Hasekura, who carried Masamune’s message to the Pope and the King of Spain requesting the dispatch of Roman missionaries and an opening of trade with Spain. Hasekura met Philip III in 1614, and was given an audience with Pope Paulo V in 1615. However, the requests were not accepted and Hasekura came back to Japan 7 years later.

Today, there are many admirers of Masamune throughout Japan, not only for his achievements laying the foundation of the region but also for his pioneering efforts such as shipbuilding and the mission to Europe. Ms. Satoh adds, “He even has an influence on present-day people abroad. For instance, Darth Vader’s helmet in Star Wars was modeled on the armor and helmet used by Date Masamune. You will notice that they do resemble those of Date Masamune. Local people are very proud of this”.

Miyagi prefecture boasts a number of cultural assets left by Masamune, such as Oosaki Hachiman Shrine in Sendai and Zuiganji Temple in Matsushima. In summer, local festivals are held at various locations. If you are interested in experiencing people-to-people exchange in a region that is full of the legacy of this historic warrior, a home-stay program America-Japan Grassroots Summit in Miyagi in July may be a perfect option.

Miyagi prefecture is a sister-state with Delaware and the prefecture supports the Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival that will be held in Delaware in November 2009 and will feature Japan. The festival promises to be an excellent opportunity to get in touch with both traditional and contemporary Japan through film.

Date Masamune

Photo Courtesy of Sendai City

Black-lacquered Five-piece Armor used by Date Masamune
(Important Cultural Property)
Sendai City Muserum

Hasekura Tsunenaga

Photo Courtesy of Sendai City

Reference: Date Masamune Historical Museum

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From the Ambassador's Desk

On May 6th and 7th, I visited Fairhaven, Massachusetts.

Fairhaven is a small seaside town that boasts an important legacy: it was home to two people who played significant, early roles bridging the U.S. and Japan, John Manjiro Nakahama and Captain William H. Whitfield. John Manjiro was shipwrecked in the Pacific in 1841 and rescued by Captain Whitfield’s ship. The captain’s Fairhaven house, where Manjiro stayed for about 3 years since May 7th, 1843, has been restored and opened as a museum and memorial after more than 160 years, making it an important symbol of the Japan-US friendship I hope you have an opportunity to visit and to reflect on these great individuals who played a key part during the debut of our two countries’ relations in the late Edo and early Meiji eras.

At the opening ceremony, Dr. Shigeaki Hinohara represented the Japanese civic group behind the restoration and establishment of the memorial house. Mr. Hinohara, a 97 year old physician, still in active practice, inspires many Japanese people through his books and talks. He visited New York after the Fairhaven ceremony and gave a speech about how to have a positive life, touching on the life and legacy of John Manjiro. Seeing the active and vigorous Dr. Hinohara was an inspiration for me.

Aging is an important issue, not only in Japan but for the Japanese and Japanese-American community in New York as well. The Consulate is involved in various ways; for example, we support annual Senior Week in September and Sakura Health Fair in April, events hosted by the Japanese American Association of New York Inc (JAA) and the Japanese American Medical Services Network (JAMSNET). The Consulate will continue to actively engage in this issue, so that seniors in and around New York can stay healthy and enjoy their golden years.

One last thing: Japan Day @ Central Park 2009 is just around the corner. I look forward to seeing all of you at Central Park on Sunday, May 31!

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Event Calendar


Photo Courtesy of Regent Releasing / Here Media

The long-awaited Japanese film, Departures, this year's Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language Film, will open Friday, May 29 at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema, City Cinema 1,2,3, and the Sunshine Cinema in New York City. Directed by Yojiro Takita, Departures is a moving tale of a young man's realization of self-identity, coming to terms with his past, and learning to create a new life for himself.

The story focuses on Daigo (Masahiro Motoki), a cellist who suddenly becomes jobless when his symphony orchestra in Tokyo disbands. Daigo decides to move back to his hometown, Yamagata, with his wife Mika (Ryoko Hirosue) to reevaluate his life and future. After answering a help wanted ad featuring the word "departures" with hopes of an exciting job in tourism, he instead finds himself offered a position doing "encoffinments," the ancient Japanese art of preparing a corpse for cremation. Through working with Sasaki (Tsutomu Yamazaki), the owner of the company, Daigo discovers a renewed joy for living through learning to care for the grieving and the deceased.

Director. Yojiro Takita

Photo Courtesy of Regent Releasing / Here Media

Departures sensitively takes on the delicate issue of death and life with light humor and an absorbing story line. The movie demystifies encoffinment and depicts the dignity of the encoffiner's dealings with the deceased, showcasing the Japanese ritual of cleaning and presentation with skill, precision, and respect for both the deceased and the family members.

Masahiro Motoki, first had the idea for a film about an encoffiner about 10 years ago. To bring authenticity to his role, he not only learned about encoffinment but also learned to play the cello. Japanese people of a certain age remember Motoki as a singer with the boy band, Shibugakitai in the early 1980s. Since then, he has developed a career as a serious actor. Director Yojiro Takita is one of Japan's most accomplished film directors spanning from comedies to dramas.

Departures opened in Japan in the fall of 2008 and became a major box-office hit. It has won 10 Japanese Academy Prize awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Screenplay.

Photo Courtesy of Regent Releasing / Here Media

Photo Courtesy of Regent Releasing / Here Media

Photo Courtesy of Regent Releasing / Here Media

Lincoln Plaza Cinema
1886 Broadway (Between 62th & 63th Street)
New York, NY 10023
Sunshine Cinema
143 East Houston Street
New York, NY 10002
City Cinema 1, 2, 3
1001 Third Avenue (Between 59th & 60th Street)
New York, NY 10021

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Art Student Exhibition

Art Student Exhibition 2008

photo:ISE Cultural Foundation

The ever popular Art Student Exhibition at the ISE Cultural Foundation returns this summer for the fifth year in row, giving art students the cherished opportunity to exhibit their work at a New York City gallery.

The ISE Cultural Foundation is sponsoring its fifth annual Art Student Exhibition from July 10 to August 29, 2009 at their gallery in SoHo, New York City. Art students from all over the U.S. and Japan can submit their work for the opportunity to gain valuable experience and recognition from leading figures in the art world. Celebrated New York City art professionals will judge the submissions to determine the award winners. Viewers will also have an opportunity to vote for their favorite artist(s), who will then receive the "New York City Audience Awards."

Art students currently studying at any college, university or other art educational institution, including recent graduates, are eligible. There is no entry fee. Submissions may be dropped off at the ISE Cultural Foundation Gallery between June 30 and July 3, or sent by mail. Artwork can be 2-dimensional such as photography, drawings, or paintings. 3D pieces such as sculptures will also be accepted. Video work is not eligible, and there is a limit of one piece per person.

photo:ISE Cultural Foundation

The five judges, who will select the two top award winners are: Jeremy Adams, Executive Director, Cue Art Foundation; Jonathan Goodman, Art Critic; Brett Littman, Executive Director, The Drawing Center; David McFadden, Chief Curator, Museum of Arts and Design; and Lee Tribe, Artist.

The exhibition will conclude with the awards ceremony on August 29, where families and friends may join the students while they savor the experience and acknowledge the winners' accomplishments.

For more details on the Art Student Exhibition, please go to http://www.iseny.org/usr_helio1/show_news.php?newsid=75

ISE Cultural Foundation Gallery
Art Student Exhibition
555 Broadway, New York, NY 10012
Drop Off: June 30-July 03
Exhibition: July 10-August 29
Award Ceremony and Closing Party: August 29
Pick Up: September 01-September 05

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3/13 - 6/14 KRAZY!
Japan Society
4 / 16 - 6 / 27 Yayoi Kusama GAGOSIAN GALLERY
4 / 18 - 6 / 19
Inner Voices
Hammond Museum and Japanese Stroll Garden

5/6 - 6/26
by appointment
New Work by Kentaro Hiramatsu
Susan Eley Fine Art
5/15 - 6/26
"With My Eyes Closed"
ISE Cultural Foundation Front Gallery
Exhibitions Cultural Events Other
6 / 2-16 "Unconditional Love" by Mio Ueno The Nippon Gallery
6/14 3:00pm- 4:00pm"Body Discipline and Healing Arts"
Tenri Cultural Institute
5/31 Japan Day @ Central Park 2009
Central Park East Meadow

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(c) Consulate-General of Japan in New York
299 Park Avenue 18th Floor, New York, NY 10171
Tel: (212)371-8222